Oxytocin Injection: a Personal Experience

Oxytocin bowtie Sprechter

The latest news about oxytocin is that it helped regenerate muscle tissue in old mice. This is not so surprising; while most of the excitement about oxytocin is around its influence as a neurochemical on our emotions and thoughts, it's also a hormone that travels through the bloodstream and helps regulate many bodily functions.

A study led by Irini Conboy at UC Berkeley found that circulating oxytocin can help repair muscles, reducing the muscle wasting, or sarcopenia, that comes with aging. Daily subcutaneous injections of oxytocin allowed the older mice to repair muscle injuries as fast as the younger ones did.

The study was published June 10 in Nature.

I have an acquaintance who's struggled with fibromyalgia for most of his life. He's working with a naturopath who is able to prescribe drugs and is willing to help him experiment with treatments. He recently tried oxytocin injections. I asked him to write me about his experience, and here's what he says:

I injected 1 ml (10 units) of oxytocin subcutaneously, for a couple of months, as an experiment. I found that it raised my mood and gave me energy, which jibes with the article's conclusions. I stopped using it because oxytocin is only manufactured in small vials suitable for one-time use. For daily use, a bigger vial that can use a vial adapter would be required.

Oxytocin is quite expensive, and, unlike drugs like insulin which are packaged to be drawn out with a sterile needle over and over, the vials my friend got from the pharmacy were more than he needed for a single injection, but they could not be resealed.

People frequently ask me how to get oxytocin, and I always tell them to find a healthcare professional who will work with them, so my friend's experience is a good example of how the relationship with a medical provider can work. Unfortunately, it also points up a big issue with using oxytocin off-label.

PHOTO: Speicher Tie Co.


Life Experience Critical for the Oxytocin Response

As we move toward Mother's Day, science gave us another reminder of how important mothering is -- mothering as the actions of caring for a child no matter what your biological relationship.

Research led by Michael Poulin of the University of Buffalo looked at genes for oxytocin and vasopressin receptors that have been linked to kindness and generosity. They tested subjects to see if they had these genes, and they also asked them about whether they saw the world as threatening or not, and people as good or bad.

Simply having those kindness genes wasn't as important as life experiences that shaped the person's worldview. According to WebMD:

So although DNA may influence behavior, people do not come pre-programmed to be kind or mean or altruistic or selfish, says lead researcher Michael Poulin, PhD, of the University at Buffalo.

"We are not just puppets of our genes," Poulin tells WebMD. "Genes influence niceness in combination with perceptions of social threat, which come from our past and present experiences."


What Is Oxytocin Factor?

People always ask me, "Where can I get some oxytocin?" I always tell them to generate their own. A new product on the market actually contains oxytocin.

Moreover, I have a lot of respect for Bryan Post, the person who developed the product and acts as neutriceutical director for ABC Neutriceuticals.

Bryan Post is a psychologist who does ground-breaking work with families of kids who have severe behavior problems, mostly as the result of early trauma from adoption or spending time in the foster system.

His approach takes into account the dynamics of the whole family, recognizing that a parent's anger or inability to connect can further traumatize the child. Post was himself an adopted and disruptive child. At the Post Institute for Family-Centered Therapy and in workshops around the country, he helps parents learn to provide the brain-shaping experiences their children missed.

I talked to Bryan about how he developed the product, what's in it, how stable it is, whether it's really legal to sell, and why he thinks it's safe. These are all questions you should ask about any supplement or product.

I'm not ready to endorse this product, but if you decide to buy it, here is my affiliate link: https://abcnutri1.infusionsoft.com/go/home/kuchinsk/

I'm afraid my voice in this is a bit warbly (thanks, Skype!) but Bryan's is clear.

Bryan Post 3-23-12ED




Self-Worth, Respect and Oxytocin

Sure, there's a connection between how we're treated and our feelings of self-worth. Is there also an oxytocin connection?

Nekole Shapiro of EmbodiedBirth speaks to the connection between how a woman feels about herself sexually--  whether on a date or in the birthing room -- and the production of oxytocin. Learn why disrespecting a laboring woman hinders the birthing process. She finishes by taking us through an exercise that can help you feel more in touch with your own body.

This is Nekole's intro to @RickiLake's movie More Business of Being Born - The VBAC Dilemma at Birth Uncut in Reno NV Nov. 2011.

 


Empathy Linked to Gene -- and We Can Tell

Variations in the genes for oxytocin receptors may influence empathy -- and we can tell who's got them in 20 seconds.

In the study, by Aleksandr Kogan of UC Berkeley, 24 couples provided DNA samples and then the couples recounted to each other a time when they had suffered. The conversations were videotaped.

Then, observers wached 20-second segments of the videos and were asked to rate each person as kind, trustworthy and compassionate. The observers tended to pick the people in the couples who hada variation in the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype.

It's interesting enough that empathy might be linked to variations in our genes. And also interesting that we humans are so exquisitely sensitive to social cues that we can easily and quickly pick this out.

PsychCentral has more on the study of oxytocin and empathy.

Here's the study:

SNP on OXTR Impacts Behavioral Prosociality Displays

See also Variations in Oxytocin Gene Influence Optimism

Romantic Chemistry May Be Genetic


Sweet Smell of Birth

Evidently, there is a characteristic odor that comes when a woman in natural labor is close to giving birth -- and it's lovely. http://blogs.babble.com/being-pregnant/2011/10/03/what-does-birth-smell-like/

According to this article on Babble.com:

It’s a ‘deep’ scent… not musky, necessarily, but primal and vaguely familiar …” Maybe birth smells like the opposite of death? The opposite of decay.

 


Oxytocin Doc in Fresno

People always ask me how they can try oxytocin, and I always suggest they find a doctor willing to prescribe it off-label. Fresno's Dr. Matt French is their man.

I've seen his name come up before in news alerts for oxytocin. According to this news article, Dr. French "prescribes oxytocin to women who feel they don't produce enough of it naturally." It profiles one patient who has been taking oxytocin daily for months.

I think such women would be better served by teaching their menfolk how to make them feel cherished, loved and well-rested. But that's just me. What do you think?

 


Variations in Oxytocin Gene Influence Optimism

Shelley Taylor, the UCLA psychologist who identified the "tend and befriend" response, says the gene that produces the oxytocin receptor is responsible for influencing self-esteem, optimism and a sense of mastery.

This isn't so surprising, because oxytocin seems to produce most of the positive social emotions -- as well as some less positive ones.

According to the UCLA press office:

At a particular location, the oxytocin receptor gene has two versions: an "A" (adenine) variant and a "G" (guanine) variant. Several studies have suggested that people with at least one "A" variant have an increased sensitivity to stress, poorer social skills and worse mental health outcomes.
 
The researchers found that people who have either two "A" nucleotides or one "A" and one "G" at this specific location on the oxytocin receptor gene have substantially lower levels of optimism, self-esteem and mastery and significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms than people with two "G" nucleotides.
Taylor stressed that genetic variations do not "cause" depression or poor mental health. As I discussed in my book, there's direct scientific evidence from rodents and indirect evidence in humans that early nurturing -- and perhaps a baby's experience of labor and birth -- can influence the proliferation and sensitivity of oxytocin receptors.
Also, please don't forget that our brains can change throughout our lives through positive experiences.
Researchers have found that lower expression of the oxytocin receptor gene (in other words, fewer receptors) was linked to menstrual pain. And differences in expression of the OXTR gene may be linked to autism.

 


The Connection Continuum

3048731033_1f1fce7744_b You may think that the pleasure of sexual climax is miracle enough. But an orgasm is even more miraculous than that. It’s an essential element of the biological and spiritual mechanism that connects us to each other and to the universe.

Jerry M. Lewis, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and author of “Reflections: On Relationships with Self and Others,” describes what he calls the Oneness Continuum. He says, “Starting with baseline reality, the continuum moves to aesthetic experiences (sunsets and symphonies) to romantic love. Next come numinous experiences (spiritual-religious), cosmic consciousness, and progressive trance states. The continuum ends with experiences of ‘absolute unity,’ which includes the obliteration of time and space.”

I like the idea of placing these experiences on a continuum, and I’d like to expand his idea to encompass even more. The experiences Dr. Lewis describes are states of connection with something outside ourselves. I call it the Connection Continuum, and I would include many more kinds of personal connection.

The Connection Continuum

In our culture, we place so much emphasis on romantic love that we forget about the myriad of other connections we make with each other. Even as we go about daily life, we can enjoy moments of connection with strangers, for example, when we exchange a smile with someone we’re passing in the street or say a kind word to the person who hands us our coffee.

Don’t ignore or dismiss these moments. Humans are social creatures who cannot thrive without contact with others. Each time we connect with someone else, it’s a gift of health and well-being, thanks to a chemical called oxytocin.

You may have heard of oxytocin’s role in mothering. It’s essential for giving birth and breastfeeding; and at the same time, it’s responsible for the love a mother feels for her baby. Or, you may have heard it be called the cuddle hormone. In fact, oxytocin seems to play an important role in every kind of positive human interaction.

At every place on the Connection Continuum, I believe, you’ll find oxytocin. Scientists have already identified its influence in money exchanges between strangers, at the lower end of the Connection Continuum.

The Real God Molecule?
It makes beautiful sense that our brains use the same chemistry for the connections at each end of the Connection Continuum, from the fleeting kindness of a stranger to the deep sense of dependence and love we may feel for our mothers. What’s more amazing is that we also use this chemistry for all the other kinds of connection—with lovers, friends, pets, people we do business with, even sports teams and actors. (Scientists haven’t confirmed that oxytocin is involved in these more abstract kinds of connection, but do these connections make as much sense to you as they do to me?)

At the Spirit or Oneness end of the Continuum, researchers have shown that people singing in a choir have elevated levels of oxytocin. Science probably won’t pursue oxytocin’s influence on religious experience, but I’m ready to nominate it as the true god molecule. I believe that oxytocin is the basis for the experience of merging not only with another person, but with Oneness, Spirit or God (as we know him or her).

There’s one real oxytocin hotspot on the Connection Continuum: orgasm. When our bodies go into orgasm, our brains release a flood of oxytocin into the bloodstream and into the brain. Oxytocin travels through the arteries to open the blood vessels, relax the smooth muscles, and create warmth and relaxation. At the same time, it sears the brain with recognition that this other person was the source of so much pleasure.

As humans evolved to be smarter and live longer, this sense of deep connection and bonding was essential for keeping a baby’s mother and father together so that they could keep their child safe and healthy. At the same time, the regular doses of oxytocin produced by the couple’s orgasms kept them healthier.

Orgasm and Connection
What if we reconsider orgasm itself? Instead of something that we need to get from someone else in order to feel good, what would change if we thought of orgasm as a miraculous method of connecting with another person—or even connecting with the universe?

I’d like to suggest that we enlarge our definition of orgasm to include any and every experience of oxytocin. Expanding this definition can expand our range of feeling, bringing more pleasure and fulfillment into everyday life. When we enhance our ability to connect this way—every day—we can live in union with each other and the universe.

This article originally appeared in Vision Magazine.

Photo by Mike Baird.